Eye For Style

Friedman creates a new Sacramento vibe

By Gary Delsohn
December 2019

Mark Friedman was showing a visitor around The Foundry, his latest apartment project in West Sacramento, when he paused to check something that had been bugging him.

An outer hallway connecting different wings of the three-story building were painted orange, which seemed like a good idea at the outset. But now Friedman was having second thoughts: too much orange. He was pleased to see workers already covering it up with a less garish coat of gray paint.

When he says, “It’s where the city meets the agrarian part of Yolo County and we’re creating this middle ground that has its own character and is different from Midtown or Downtown,” you realize that’s not just marketing hype. It’s actually true.

The Raley’s Landing site is adjacent to the ostentatious Ziggurat, built for the old Money Store headquarters, and the Tower Bridge. The property sits across the river from Old Sacramento. The mixed-use project will feature a 200-room boutique hotel and about 60 private residences on land long owned by the Teel Family Trust of Raley’s supermarket wealth.

Friedman formed a partnership with the trust to finally bring this long-held dream to fruition. Given his track record of quality projects with smart, attractive design features, if things go according to plan this will be unlike anything Sacramento has experienced.

“I really think it’s incumbent in trying to figure out, instead of just copying what you see elsewhere, how to create something that’s unique and appropriate for this city in this time,” Friedman says of this West Sacramento work generally. To Friedman, that means pleasant summer evenings eating fresh food outside with a gentle Delta breeze. That feeling is a big part of the ambience he and his architects try to recreate.

Given the high-profile and impactful projects he’s juggling, Friedman could be forgiven for not noticing or caring about such details. But quality design and attention to detail are his signature, and now he’s about to take the lead on perhaps his biggest project yet.

Although he played a major role in developing Golden 1 Center—he was largely responsible for the aircraft doors that give the arena indoor-outdoor flexibility for concerts and events—the Raley’s Landing development announced along the west side of the Sacramento River in July could become his defining project. At least until he finds something to eclipse it.

Friedman has already created an iconic West Sacramento landmark with his whimsical, cantilevered Barn that its Dutch designer said was inspired by a sprouting vegetable seed. With a restaurant and beer garden, both wildly popular in nice weather, the Barn is an events venue, civic gathering space and high-end arts piece all at once.

With his Dutch-inspired apartments nearby, the so-called Bridge District in West Sacramento is on its way to fulfilling years of anticipation and promise as an attractive riverfront setting that is urban and dense, but at a low-rise scale. It’s close to the central city, but not of it—a place where, Friedman points out, natural and manmade environments come together in a decidedly Sacramento way.

Friedman, 62, could not escape Sacramento fast enough when he went away to college. But he is long past worrying about establishing his own identity beyond the legendary legal, development and philanthropic contributions of his late father, Mort Friedman. Nor is he in the shadow of the cultural and arts contributions of his mother, Marcy Friedman, the driving financial and visionary force behind the outstanding addition to the Crocker Art Museum that elevated Sacramento’s artistic credentials.

Hiring smart, creative designers from the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere, Friedman put his own stamp on projects such as R Street’s Ice Blocks, the Barn, Bridge District apartments and townhomes, the Davis Commons and existing buildings his company has renovated and owns.

His developments have a hip, urban character. They are the kinds of places people seem to like to spend time in and around because they are functional and cool without being pretentious or out of place. They reflect and elevate Sacramento, which is what Friedman has sought with panache and success.

The city has many projects in the planning stage, from Downtown to Midtown to the railyards. It will be fascinating to see if everything comes to fruition and how the pieces fit together.

If recent history is a guide, you can be certain Friedman’s projects will stand out as appealing pillars of Sacramento’s ongoing renaissance, like so many of his contributions to our community.

Gary Delsohn can be reached at gdelsohn@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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